MBOUR, Senegal (AP) — A Gambian court has sentenced a former spy chief and four others to death Wednesday after finding them guilty of the 2016 murder of a political activist.
Former director general of the defunct National Intelligence Agency, Yankuba Badjie, was convicted along with the other ex-intelligence officials for the murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
Sandeng’s death contributed to the downfall of ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled this tiny West African nation for 22 years.
Sandeng, a leader of the opposition United Democratic Party, spearheaded a protest march in April 2016. The Jammeh regime arrested him and he was killed at the intelligence agency’s headquarters in Banjul, the capital. His death led to a groundswell of opposition that helped to bring about Jammeh’s ouster in presidential elections later that year.
The intelligence agency’s former operations chief, Sheikh Omar Jeng, along with officials Baboucarr Sallah, Masireh Tamba and Lamin Darboe were also convicted and sentenced to death. The death sentences will be converted to life in prison, as Gambia has observed a moratorium on the death penalty since 2018.
Another accused, Haruna Suso, was absolved from any wrongdoing and he was released and discharged by the court.
The convictions are an important step in holding former officials accountable for abuses during Jammeh’s rule, said rights activists. Jammeh lost the 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow and initially refused to step down. But confronted by widespread demonstrations against him and the threat of military action by neighboring West African countries, Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea in 2017.
Fatoumata Sandeng, the daughter of the slain activist, said Thursday that the court has set a good precedent with this sentencing.
“After six good years, the court has finally set an example,” she told The Associated Press while struggling to contain her emotions. “The case being wrapped up with a maximum sentence shows that no matter how long it takes, justice will always prevail.”
Sandeng called urged other victims of Jammeh’s rule to keep seeking justice.
Barrow’s administration has taken recommendations from a truth and reconciliation commission and said it seeks to prosecute Jammeh and those in his government for crimes committed during his rule that began in 1994.